The idea of robots creating robots is a fascinating yet potentially scary one. Some people see the future of production being run by robots and robotic devices, all teaming to create products for human beings as well as replicas of themselves. One of the questions that many people often ask when referring to 3D printing is if you can actually 3D print another 3D printer. The answer is a difficult one, as it is possible to 3D print the plastic parts of another 3D printer, but it isn’t possible to 3D print all of its electronics (not yet at least). The RepRap Project was created years ago, with this very idea in mind.
While we are not completely there yet, we are getting closer every day, thanks to innovators like a man named Benjamin Engel. Engel, who has teamed with his father to try to create the most self-replicating 3D printer yet, has made some rather significant advancements with his upcoming Dollo 3D printer.
“This idea came from when I was in high school,” Engel tells 3DPrint.com. “Every time you tell someone you have a 3D printer, they always ask the same question: ‘Can you print a 3D printer?’. That question wasn’t easy to answer because, yes, the Reprap project had printed parts, but it was still mostly metal parts. So with the help of my dad, we came up with a modular, scalable, and printable 3D printer; just like the Reprap project originally intended.”
What Engel and his father came up with was what they call the Dollo 3D printer. The Dollo can be printed using just 1kg of filament, plus it has the ability to 3D print its own extension pieces so that it can grow naturally as its user feels fit. Old parts can be reused when expanding the printer, and Engel tells us that the Dollo could feasibly be as small as a “coke can” or as large as a house.
On top of this, a single Dollo 3D printer has the ability to 3D print another printer in about 18 hours, using a 0.6mm nozzle to increase production speed and structural integrity of the parts.
“We have minimal lashing because we do everything with rack and gears, not belts,” Engel tells us. “The z axis doesn’t use threaded rods, but instead it uses a gear system on the bottom of the bed with a cork screw style thing. We think there is something magical about rapid prototyping a rapid prototyping machine. We also plan to manufacture the Dollo with the Dollo, and we think self-replicating designs could be revolutionary to the manufacturing and robotic industries.”
Named after “Dollo’s Law of Irreversibility,” which states that evolution is not reversible, Engel plans to bring their creation to Kickstarter soon. While he estimates that the average Dollo 3D printer costs about $350 to make, after purchasing the non-3D-printed parts, he belives that buying parts in bulk will allow them to offer this machine to Kickstarter backers for just $300, while still allowing him and his father to bring in a small profit.
As for the parts that are not 3D printed, they are as follows: motors, electronics, hot end, and 16 (m2x25) screws which are used to attach motors to the printer.
The Engels also plan to offer an optional CNC router to their Kickstarter backers, which will allow the 3D printer to become a CNC machine. They are also considering making a laser cutter/engraver attachment available as well.
What do you think of the Dollo 3D Printer? Is this a machine you would pay $300 for? Discuss in the Dollo 3D Printer forum thread on 3DPB.com.